[Weekly Wonk] Preparing for #OKLeg session | Managed care, chapter 2 | OK Policy adds tribal-state policy focus

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

Policy Matters: A few thoughts for the next #OKLeg session:Before our elected officials gather for Monday’s opening session, I wanted to share my hopes for the coming four months. [Ahniwake Rose / OK Policy

OK Policy Legislative Primer: How does a bill become a law? Who chairs key legislative committees? How much is in Oklahoma’s Rainy Day Fund? With the 2022 Oklahoma Legislative session here, our newly updated Legislative Primer will answer these questions and more. [Web] [Download PDF].

OK Policy now includes tribal-state policy advocacy: To promote policy reforms and address challenges in tribal-state issues, the Oklahoma Policy Institute is entering into a new role working with tribal partners, state officials, and community leaders. [Vivian Morris / OK Policy

Managed care discussions likely to continue this session (Capitol Update): Chapter two of last year’s Medicaid managed care saga is underway. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy

OK Policy in the News

Oklahoma budget process can be mysterious, even for many lawmakers [The Oklahoman]

(Audio) Lawmakers talk spending versus saving as legislative session nears [Public Radio Tulsa

Largest state budget since 2010 should benefit Oklahoma workers says policy group: [Public Radio Tulsa]

Upcoming Opportunities

Join the team: OK Policy is currently hiring for three positions: 

Applications for these three positions close on Friday, February 25 at 5:00 PM (CST). [Learn more and apply]

Weekly What’s That

SoonerCare (Medicaid)

Medicaid is a public insurance program that provides health coverage to low-income families and individuals, including children, parents, pregnant women, seniors, and people with disabilities. The program, which was created by Congress in 1965 as Title XIX of the Social Security Act, is operated by the states and funded jointly by the federal government and the states.

In Oklahoma, the Medicaid program is known as SoonerCare and is operated primarily by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. In FY 2020 (prior to Medicaid expansion), the Medicaid program served just over 1 million individuals at some point over the course of the year, a figure that had remained largely unchanged since FY 2012. As of November 2021, SoonerCare’s total monthly enrollment was 1,135,844 people. Of these, well over half (58 percent) were low-income children 18 years and under.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

Quote of the Week

“That’s not going to improve public education at all”

– Erika Wright, founder of Oklahoma Rural Schools Coalition, speaking about Senate Bill 1647, which would divert millions in public money to students attending homeschool or private schools by requiring per-pupil state funding to follow the student regardless of where they attend school [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Editorial of the Week

Voucher bills would reduce educational opportunities, not enhance them

Public schools are the heart of our communities, particularly rural and smaller towns. Much of a community’s identity is tied up in public schools, through academics, athletics, extra-curricular activities, etc.

And even in larger metro areas or communities that have more than one public school, each of those schools provides a community to parents, children and extended families who either attend the school or support the school in some way.

So, why are some Oklahoma legislators so focused on diminishing public schools rather than focusing on providing resources and implementing policies that will make public schools the best they can be?

The Oklahoma Empowerment Act is another school choice measure that would give students an $8,000 voucher to offset the costs of a private school education. Proponents of so-called school choice say taxpayers should have the freedom to choose where to send their children to school, and that choice shouldn’t only be available to families with financial means.

That sounds great. Yes, we all want our children to receive the best education possible. We want all schools to have good academics, great teachers, extra-curricular programs and enhanced learning opportunities.

Unfortunately, proposals like the Oklahoma Empowerment Act would work the opposite way and take much-needed funding (and resources) away from public schools. It will diminish the quality of education for many students in our state….

[Read the full editorial at the Enid News & Eagle]

Numbers of the Day

  • 2.9% – Percentage of Black male medical students in 2019. Without the contribution of historically Black medical schools, just 2.4% would be Black men. [STAT]
  • 2.8% – Estimated percentage decrease in the state’s uninsured rate (as of Aug. 31, 2021) following three months of the state enrolling residents in expanded Medicaid coverage. [Oklahoma Policy Institute]
  • 13% – Oklahoma’s child poverty rate. The American Rescue Plan Act temporarily expanded the federal child tax credit (CTC) for one year, including some families formerly ineligible for the credit. It’s estimated this temporary increase cut the state’s child poverty rate roughly in half while it was in effect. [Tax Policy Center]
  • 39.5%  – Oklahoma’s uninsured rate in 2019 for Oklahoma Latinas of reproductive age (18-44). The uninsured rate for American Indian women was 36.1%, for Black women, 22.2%, and for white women, 20.7%. Those rates are expected to decline following Oklahoma’s expansion of Medicaid coverage starting in June 2021. [Georgetown Center for Children and Families]
  • 249,175 – Oklahomans approved for health care benefits through Medicaid expansion since June 1, 2021. (As of Feb. 4, 2022) [Oklahoma Health Care Authority]

What We’re Reading

NOTE: February is National Black History Month, a time to honor the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who have helped shape the nation, and celebrate the rich cultural heritage, triumphs and adversities that are an indelible part of our country’s history.


David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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